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Hindu Rituals And Sacrifices

In a Hindu arranged marriage there are various rituals and customs. According to Hindu Sastra there are four stages of life and the second stage is Grahastha Ashram (the householder stage), which signifies married life and it begins when a man and a woman come together and marry. Marriage takes the form of an institution, which teaches the actual values of life. Every stage in life has its own charm. A married life also has its own charm and importance. In the Indian society, there are mostly arranged marriages with various steps. The first step starts with the selection of the bride and the bridegroom.

The marriage among Hindus gives the illusion of not only the union of two souls but of two families. A Hindu wedding not only involves the bride and groom but the entire community, friends, family and relatives as everybody participates in their coming together. A Hindu marriage symbolizes not just a bonding of two individuals but also the bonding of understanding, commitment, mutual love and spiritual growth. In Hindu, tradition marriage is not just about celebration and fun it demands sacrifice, companionship, dedication, and surrender by both the partners.

The rituals and customs associated with marriage portray the real essence of wedding. Mangalsutra is one such symbol of marriage. It is not just a jewelry item it has lots of significance to an Indian married woman. It is a sacred thread of love and goodwill worn by married women as a symbol of their marriage. The groom ties it around the neck of the bride on the day of their marriage signifying their union. Mangalsutra is the token of dignity and love given to a bride by her groom. It serves to protect their marriage and life of their husbands.

Another religio-cultural element dominantly shared by most tribes who used to sacrifice bovines in order to satisfy dead relatives and/or ancestral spirits. The role of supernatural carrier of the dead soul attributed to the sacrificial bovine, particularly to the water buffalo. The ritual installation of the horns or skulls of the sacrificed bovines on the megalithic monuments belong to the memorial or to the burial class. The frequent erection of forked posts, shaped as a pair of bovine horns, during the celebration of the mortuary rites at issue.

Note that, especially in Indonesia, tribal longhouses decorated with real or wooden buffalo horns or with buffalo-heads made of straw; such buildings, largely identified with the ancestors of their inhabitants and, in some instances, with a mythical figure of the Sacred Buffalo symbolising the same. The socio-economic functions attributed to the sacrifice of bovines performed at funerals, concerning the redistribution of cattle wealth and the redefinition of each family’s status and kinship links with the other families within the clan unity based on the major or minor lot of cattle wealth offered to common ancestors.

The best instances of this social function of the sacrifice of bovines are represented by the Naga (whose well-known Feasts of Merit are associated, in certain instances, with ancestor-cult), the Gadaba and Hill Saora of Orissa and, as far as Indonesia is concerned, the Toraja of Sulawesi and the tribes of Sumba. The BrAhmaNa texts describe the sacrifice of the anustaraNI cow beside the funeral pyre, and the donation of the vaitar NI cow to the officiating brahmins, as parts of two different, and yet interrelated, Vedic funeral ceremonies.

Vedic literature is silent on the water buffalo’s role—found among many tribal groups of India and Southeast Asia—as the carrier of the souls of the dead to the after world. A female animal offered to the brahmins (not as a sacrifice), which in my opinion is something very different from the male animal (water-buffalo, mithun or zebu) that is actually offered as a sacrifice and slaughtered in the course of the funeral rites observed by many of the tribal peoples inhabiting India and Southeast Asia

The sacrifice buffaloes are at both primary and secondary ceremonies for the disposal of the dead. The Gotar or Gota Mela, the Gadaba’s secondary funeral ceremony or memorial ritual, is a grand affair involving the slaughtering of tens and tens of buffaloes (and of cows). This has a direct bearing on the increase of social status and the hierarchy of kinship ties. Megalithic monuments (menhirs and stone slabs), dedicated to the departed on that occasion.

During the sacrifices, each sacrificial buffalo tied to a branch of silk-cotton tree (Bombax malabaricum or Salmalia malabarica, as zAlmali associated with Vedic hell). The donors of the memorial feast cannot eat the meat of the sacrificed animals. Buffaloes believed to carry off the souls of the departed and to become their property in the after world, thus increasing their status as compared with that of other ancestral spirits. The Gotar ritual probably represents, anthropologically speaking, the closest Indian cognate of the secondary funeral ceremonies of the Toraja of Sulawesi.

Primary and secondary ceremonies for the disposal of the dead similar to those of their neighbours the Gadaba, with yet much more integration of shamanistic practices (mainly carried out by female practitioners). In times gone by, the secondary funeral ceremony included the butchering of hundreds of buffaloes. The Sema Naga are reported to sacrifice oxen and pigs at the funerals of warriors and then expose the skulls of the sacrificed animals on a wooden rack along with those of the animals killed during the Feasts of Merit offered by the deceased during his lifetime.

For they believe that the souls of all of these animals will follow the dead to the after world. The technique adopted by most of the Naga tribes to put the sacrificial bovines to death, namely, the spearing technique, largely resorted to by the buffalo-sacrificing tribes of Indo-China too. The mithuns are often tortured before being put to death, with this intringuingly paralleling the tortures inflicted by the Kondh of Orissa to the sacrificial buffalo.

In India this ‘cruel’ way of slaughtering the sacrificial water-buffalo is peculiar to the tribes of Orissa, and in the Burma-Yunnan region, to the sole Wa people. The Wa sacrificial activity, directed by shaman-diviners, revolves round the village’s sacred wooden drum, venerated in the so-called House of Spirits (a cultic feature that is also found in the Naga tribes’ religious traditions). This drum regarded as the abode of the tribe’s Great Ancestress. The bones of the animals sacrificed to Wa divinities and ancestral spirits are affixed to the drum-house’s beams.

The periodic reinstallation of a newly made sacred drum in the House of Spirits is an important religious ceremony culminating in the sacrifice of a bull, previously tied to a Y-shaped post. Y-shaped posts, planted in rows in front of the houses of the village, also commemorate the householders’ offerings of buffaloes to divinities and ancestral spirits. These poles are sometimes of imposing proportions just like those erected by the Naga during their Feasts of Merit. The skulls of the sacrificed buffaloes, preserved in a heap lying in the house, or affixed to the inner house-walls.

In the chiefs’ longhouses, the buffalo-horns symbolism is also present in the V-shaped finials surmounting the edges of the roof ridge—a religio-architectural feature that is also found in the Assam-Burma border region and in the whole of Indonesia. The reconstruction of the chiefs’ longhouses is conceived as a ritual of death and rebirth (of the house itself), and is, thus, preceded by sacrifices of buffaloes, oxen and pigs on the analogy of the actual funerary ritual. The latter religious feature is also present in parts of Indonesia, e. g.

among the Acehese of northern Sumatra. The mode of worship was that of elements like fire and rivers, worship of heroic gods like Indra, chanting of hymns and performance of sacrifices. The priests performed the solemn rituals for the noblemen (Kshsatriya) and some wealthy vaishyas. People prayed for abundance of children, rain, cattle (wealth), long life and an after life in the heavenly world of the ancestors. This mode of worship preserved even today in Hinduism, which involves recitations from the Vedas by a purohita (priest), for prosperity, wealth and general well-being.

However, the primacy of vedic deities has been seconded to the deities of puranic literature. Specific rituals and sacrifices of the vedic religion include, among others: The soma cult, frequently referred to in the Rigveda and descended from a common Indo-Iranian practice fire ritual. The Agnistoma or soma sacrifice, the new and full moon as well as the seasonal sacrifice, the royal consecration sacrifice, the Ashvamedha or horse sacrifice.

The practice of vegetarianism may already have arisen in late vedic times. Although in the Rigveda, the cow’s description as aghnya (that whose killing will be punishable) may refer to poetry, it is certain to be reflective of the social practices like rituals and deity worship. Incipient change to contemporary vegetarianism is seen as early as the late Brahmanas and Upanishads and may have continued under the influence of Jainism and possibly, of Buddhism, which began as a reform-movement of the vedic religion.

Brahmanism attempts to reconcile the transcendent principle with life-in-the world Reform movement within Hinduism from 1000 BCE to 300 CE de-emphasizes priestly sacrificial rites and emphasizes the notion of the Atman-Brahman (self-God)


David Dean Shulman. (1993) The Hungry God. Hindu Tales of Filicide and Devotion. 2nd edition, 2 vols. New York: Columbia University Press. Chris Fuller. (1992) “sacrifice” In The Camphor Flame. Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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